About Saint Leo

I'm a Libertarian Conservative who plans to blog about political issues of the day.

History vs Politics

This blog entry will be a little different than most. I have been meaning to mention this guy for a while.  I stumbled across his podcasts a few years ago and have been a regular subscriber ever since.  I went to his site, saw some cool stuff and I couldn’t resist promoting him to you.

I really admire his ethics and approach and I want to share him with you.

His name is Bruce Carlson and he is the driving force behind www.myhistorycanbeatupyourpolitics.com.  Yes, I know the website name is quite a mouthful, but you’ll never forget the name and it’s well worth visiting. No frills or gimmicks – “Just the facts, Ma’am!”

Have you ever thought about politics and wondered if it has always been this crazy in our history?  That’s exactly what Bruce talks about.

His works are a little varied, but in general, Bruce spotlights an issue or event of the present, then looks in our history for an identical or similar event and compares the two. After that, he explores other related topics of interest. He gives an honest report of the facts and shines a light on the implications of what was done and what might have been done. Where the facts are clear, he reports them.

If that were all he does, it would be great. But Bruce is a master at setting the stage and painting the scene for you, and his word pictures make you feel like you are there, watching history unfold.

Bruce not only researches the heck out of a topic, but he is the most balanced and non-partisan observer of history and politics I have found. Over the years, I have tried to guess which side of the Left/Right aisle he leans toward and my conclusion is: I have no idea.  He presents all sides in a fact-based manner without adding any commentary.

Below, I’ve provided a sample.  I asked a question on his Facebook page and he responded (which I didn’t expect – certainly not with a lengthy explanation). This just underscored my belief that this is a guy who loves history and really enjoys engaging with people that are curious about history and our politics today.

Here’s the question I asked:

Here’s a question that has been nagging me for a while and I think you may be the best person to provide an unbiased report. We all know that one of the main reasons our Founding Fathers rejected rule by England was the financial drain – the extreme taxation. My question is: How does the average person’s tax burden today compare to the tax burden imposed by King George on the average person in 1776? Thanks in advance for all you do. You’ve provided me with many hours of listening pleasure and a good deal of relevant knowledge. Keep up the good work. Cheers and Regards!

Here’s Bruce’s response. Please bear in mind it was a Facebook chat and so has some errant punctuation, misspelled words and a word dropped here and there. I didn’t want to edit it less I affect his meaning. Check it out and see how he explained the misconception I had in a kind way and gave a very well-rounded factual response.

—Beginning of Post—

Thanks Kim, why from moment one after Revolution there were regrets of this nature — Loyalists saying things like ‘How is your precious independence now! fools!  and the like’  Shay’s was the result of some heavy taxation from Massachusetts as a state as well as the failure to give relief from creditors.

I’ll poke around a bit – don’t know if it will make this Q&A episode because there’s some researching there. It might.  But on the surface, here are my thoughts – – I think colonial taxes were zero.

That is no head tax.  Or as we might say today income tax.I don’t think the individual colonist had any direct tax burden to England, unless they engaged in importing – and though many did, that was more for the richer folk.  Customs which would have affected a country that was still mostly seaboard, would have been where taxes were assessed and for those people I think were considered burdensome, but maybe not the only reason for war.  There was also the consideration that the taxed dollars were going across an ocean and not coming back.

I’m not entirely taxes were the issue that is sometimes presented as in the history books and summaries.     This is likely because of the Stamp Act fight, which was important, but also resolved in the 1760s before the Revolution.

Compared for example with – limiting where Americans could trade, cutting off markets (George Washington couldn’t get the good products for his fishing because London didn’t ‘plan’ fishing for Virginia.)  Strictly limiting iron production.  Limiting how far Americans could settle – the Proclamation Line and setting up Canada so that it had rights and might compete with Americans – these things were also pretty heavy on American minds.  These forcing of American commerce in one way or another were ‘taxes’ designed to send business back to Britain though the cost is difficult to calculate.  The Tea Party was also about a regulation / forced commerce issue more than tax issue – they were dumping tea to

I like to look at Tom Paine’s Common Sense as a ‘founding document’ and he has a ‘Founding Father’ if I am to use that term, because it was his document that was the call to war.  He does talk about spending monies for nothing but otherwise the word tax is not used.

Another thing to always think of in assessing the Revolution is that it was so much about the future and not just present grief.  At any time, the King could send over officers and have them be ‘in charge’ of a colony.  No election, no chance to vote etc.  Some guy that did a favor for the King would be the new governor or tax collector.  States replaced that with elected governors, initally by the Legislature and now by us, whether we like the choices or not    I tend to think it was so much more about control than merely the cost or burden of taxes.

—End of Post—

See what I mean? Balanced and factual in plain English.

I hope you’ll take the time to look at his site and sample what I consider the best neutral observer in the business.

Want to check him out?  Here’s where to go…

iTunes Store for podcasts:  “My History Can Beat Up Your Politics” by Bruce Carlson

Website:  http:// http://www.myhistorycanbeatupyourpolitics.com

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/myhist

Facebook: Search on Facebook for “My History Can Beat Up Your Politics”

Blog:  https://myhistorycanbeatupyourpolitics.wordpress.com

See you next time. Cheers and Regards,

Saint Leo

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Laws Can’t Prevent Crazy

Like many of my friends on the political Left and Right, I am angry as all get-out about this Las Vegas shooting.  When I think of what Stephen Paddock did – killing 59 and wounding hundreds – I want to punch somebody.

Did anyone other than me want this guy to have a lot more punishment than death by suicide?  Like maybe “death by a thousand cuts”? Being “drawn and quartered”? Disembowelment? Maybe ten lashes with a cat-of-nine-tails for each victim?

One who commits such a despicable act should suffer a lot more for their crime in this world. I want justice for the families of the victims and the rest of society.

I have this feeling of helplessness and anger that can’t be satisfied.  I want to do something. I think all responsible people in America feel the same way.  Whenever something bad happens, we want to undo it. But if we can’t, then we want to make sure it never happens again. Right?

Since I was a little kid, the general attitude I perceived from my parents and everyone else was that the US Government would protect us from harm. After all, just before I was born, the United States and their Allies defeated a real existential threat. Though it’s not true for every US locale, most of us have grown up with a general feeling of safety – or at least safe enough that it isn’t our principal worry. Our biggest worry is usually where to get the best deal on chic clothing or the newest consumer technology.

So, is it any wonder that today we look for the government to do something when people are senselessly murdered like these Americans were?

Most of us now have the expectation that the US Government will act to prevent events like this one. Today, in our anger and compassion for the victims, we scream for our Senators and Representatives to “do something.”  And they will. But mostly for show. They express their outrage and rush some legislation into law without thinking it through. We, the people, then must suffer according to the inevitable “Law of Unintended Consequences.”

In this case, it’s already happening. One rather prominent politician tried to use this event to ban weapon suppressors. Fortunately, it was pointed out that a fully automatic weapon would melt the suppressor almost immediately. This is a good example of a politician trying to gain relevancy by playing on our emotions while we’re still grieving. That’s pretty cold. But this politician won’t be alone. Politicians from both sides of the aisle cannot resist the chance to gain advantage.

So, let’s focus on a more mature approach. Here’s my thoughts about what to do.

After any event like this, we should bury our dead, punish the guilty if possible, grieve and, finally, examine the event for solution or prevention possibilities.  By examine, I mean review with cool heads, logic and common sense.  Let’s not allow politicians to play on our emotions and hijack our common sense so that we simultaneously advance their career and pass a stupid, ineffective law that has unintended consequences to our life and liberty.

Consider the following, for example. While all the facts are still being ferreted out, we do know a couple of things:

The shooter used semi-automatic weapons converted into automatic weapons. These are illegal. No law would have prevented that, because the shooter violated existing law. I can’t imagine that the prospect of violating any additional law would have deterred him.

Of the experts who were interviewed (those that I witnessed anyway), none were willing to say that this event was preventable. None.  Several even stated for the record that it was not preventable.

What if guns were totally banned? We’ve already seen terrorists use knives, axes and even vehicles to kill people.  Should we also ban knives, axes, and cars since they can also be used to kill? In Oklahoma, Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and wounded more than 600 with diesel fuel and fertilizer. Should we ban diesel fuel and fertilizer as well?

That’s not to say there is no legislative action that will benefit us in the long run. There might be, but we should not rush something into law without really considering all the potential consequences of the law.  Here are some questions we should always ask: How will people try to game the system after the law is in place? Given the implementation of the law, who suffers from it? And will a black-market spring up to circumvent the law and require a new “War on Weapons” agency?

I believe (with no real evidence to support my belief) that Stephen Paddock was certifiably nuts. It is yet to be learned if anyone should have detected his condition in advance. If someone has a sick mind and they decide to kill people, they will find a way.

Let’s don’t yield our reason to our emotions and act prematurely.

Where is the lesson for society that can be learned from this?  Yes, there is one. It’s the one lesson we have learned more than once in the past:  Laws cannot prevent Crazy.

That’s my thoughts on the subject. Before someone makes a bad assumption, let me say that I hate guns. I don’t currently own one and I don’t want to own one.  My younger brother was killed by a target rifle when he was twelve years old.  Regardless, I fully support the 2nd Amendment.

Why?  Because I do believe that more than one leader in our history has been stopped short of their ultimate ambitions because the US citizenry was armed. That was the intent of our Founding Fathers: To make sure our people would still have sufficient weapons to throw off a government that becomes tyrannical (as King George did in the late 1700’s).

We shouldn’t allow anyone – especially our Government – to turn us into sheep.

Cheers and Regards,
Leo

Don’t Buy Our Coffee!

I’m hearing that the Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, is on record saying, “If you support traditional marriage, DON’T buy our coffee.”

Here’s one of the links.  There are several of them, so google it and please judge for yourself if it’s bogus.

http://freedomsfinalstand.com/starbucks-ceo-support-traditional-marriage-dont-buy-coffee/

If it’s true, this strikes me as totally absurd.  What CEO in his right mind would deliberately shun the vast majority of his customers? Please tell me this is a bogus quote!

The article goes on to claim that Schultz and Starbucks support all forms of diversity. I guess my question is, why does traditional marriage not qualify as a valid choice?

I’m a Libertarian. I don’t care who you marry – I only care that you don’t try to tell me who I can marry.  I was married for 30 years to a wonderful lady and if I ever marry again, it will be in that same direction.  As a bonafide American male constituent, I still prefer women over men as a marriage partner by a significant margin.

On the other hand, my son is gay and I support him marrying his choice of a good mate, even if it doesn’t happen to match my personal preference.  It’s his choice to make. That’s what freedom is all about – the right to choose, regardless if others consider it to be a good or bad choice.

Isn’t this the best part of our style of government in the United States?

May I offer two cents worth of free advice?  Don’t follow or support anyone who says you must limit your choices. People who want to limit your choices are in effect telling you that they know better than you do what is good for you.

What decisions in your life are unimportant enough to delegate to a politician (or a mob)?

I, for one, don’t want a government like that. After listening to people from both the main parties in the US Congress speak, I’m pretty sure that I don’t want those guys to plan my dinner menu, much less decide what major life choices are best for me.

St. Leo

Sunday Morning in Dallas

I was able to close the loop on something today. On October 23, 1963, I turned twelve years old. Thirty days later, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

It was the first political event that got my attention. Even since that day, I have been interested in politics and how the world works. It was my first exposure to the fact that some people would actually kill another person to get their way. Like many others, I still remember where I was that day.

I think I have watched most of the major movie and TV specials about the event. I read several books when I was younger. The result of all the above was a general confusion.

Since that day, I have always wanted to visit the scene of that assassination and see for myself the place that “ended Camelot.” And today I did.

I’m working a DevOps consulting engagement and decided to spend the weekend in Dallas rather than come back to Atlanta. Early this morning, I went looking for a good breakfast place and found myself near Dealey Plaza. I drove there, parked the car, and walked around for about three hours, taking pictures. I’ll post them on Facebook for those who follow me there. I stood next to the plinth where Abraham Zapruder took his famous film. I stood behind the fence on the “grassy knoll” and I checked out what I thought were the shooting angles.

I spent a couple of hours in the museum, reading again and reminding myself about all the different questions, theories and ideas. The museum presented a very balanced account, giving voice to all the different theories.

Here’s what I came away with.

After viewing the film showing the timing of the shots (under seven seconds) and looking out the window of the Texas School Book Depository for myself, I came to three conclusions.

The first is that there is no way Oswald cocked the gun twice, fired it three times, and managed to aim well enough to hit his target three times. With our modern weapons today, it would probably be much easier, but not back in 1963. I just don’t buy it.

The second conclusion is that Americans still care about this and want to know the truth. I was at the museum when it opened at ten this morning, and the line was almost out the door. And there were dozens of people, just like me, wandering around and taking pictures. The most telling evidence of this was probably that the grass on the lawn next to the two “Xs” on the street was trampled to dust. People still want to know what actually happened that day.

The third conclusion I came to was that our Federal law enforcement agencies, for whatever reason, did not give all the information it had to Congress or to the American people. Not that this is a big surprise to me or anyone else, but I still become very irritated that our government thinks the truth is something that I don’t need to know or am incapable of interpreting for myself.

All that having been said, I don’t plan to debate this with anyone – there is no way to get any real resolution and, therefore, no point in arguing about it.

Also, I don’t have the resources or the inclination to pursue an investigation of my own. It’s already been done too many times to count and, frankly, there are many other, more productive ways I can think of to spend my time. But I still think about it sometimes and wonder who else was involved in this heinous act and never paid any consequences.

I’m closing the door on this long-time source of anxiety for me. I do recommend that anyone with interest in this subject come here to Dallas and check it out for yourself.

And I also recommend a healthy distrust of our Federal government.

Government Out of Control

Sorry for being gone so long. I got busy with some other projects. That’s not a good excuse, but it is what it is. Lately, though, I’ve seen so much abuse by our Federal Government that I cannot remain silent any longer.
The Constitution requires that Congress convene at least once a year. What that means is the authors of the Constitution didn’t expect Congress to have all that much to do. They wanted to make sure the lawmakers got together annually to handle anything that came up.
Additionally, they expected the lawmakers to be volunteers and not make a business out of it. From that point of view, it was expected that their time would be donated and they would serve for a short time, then return to their communities, their businesses, and their families.
I’m not sure who said it – it was credited to Thomas Jefferson by some – but someone wisely said that we would be able to keep our Republic until the politicians realized they could bribe the people with their own money. Seems to me there is a lot of that going on now and there is much evidence that most elected officials are using their positions to enrich themselves.
I think much of this abuse could be curtailed with a few clear modifications of the regulations around our elected officials. All are related to the ability and motivation for our elected officials to accumulate wealth and power. In my humble opinion, this is not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.
Let us resolve today to fix this. Let’s make government service exactly that – SERVICE – not a business. Let’s take away all the noise and stop the abuse in it’s tracks.
All that said, here’s my thoughts about what we need to do to fix this:
1. Implement Term Limits – Our elected officials become like royalty when they are in government for the long term. They have become America’s royalty – Lords and Ladies. Though some would recommend even less time, I recommend that twelve years for both Houses of Congress and the Supreme Court is about right. This gives them enough time to make an impact, but not a legacy.
2. No Congressional Pension – Members of Congress were granted pensions because it was thought to be unseemly for an American legislator to be living in poverty. I have not heard that this ever happened – it was just set up, just in case. Here’s my thought – If they are smart enough to get into Congress, they are smart enough to make a living somewhere.
3. No Congressional Exemptions – Congress cannot make any laws from which its members are exempt. Every law they make applies to them, just like everyone else – while in office and after they leave. No special healthcare and no special arrangements of any kind.
4. No ability to influence personal assets – This applies to all elected or appointed positions in all three branches of Government – Judicial, Executive and Legislative. Upon entering government service, all applicants must release a full accounting of their financial position and then agree to having all their assets placed in a blind trust where they cannot direct their investments based on their inside info. They must live on their government salary.
a. They should have the choice of leaving their investments exactly where they are for the duration of their service or in an index fund tied to the Standard & Poor index (so the better the economy performs, the better off they are). Some might say this is an invasion of privacy. If making your finances public bothers you, don’t get involved in government.
b. Any elected or appointed official who is found to be influencing their own portfolio or accepts (or solicits) gifts of any kind over $50 from any entity attempting to influence them, is suspended from service and all voting rights.
c. I admit this will be hard to implement and police, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. If men and women can use their position to enrich themselves, they will do it.
5. Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment – This amendment took the election of Senators away from the State legislatures and gave it to the popular vote. This erodes the power of the States in Congress and forces Senatorial candidates to align with political parties for support and funding – an effective transfer of power from the States to the Republicans and Democrats. The House of Representative is the “People’s House” and the Senate is supposed to be the “States’ House”. While there is still much politics involved, I think generally the state legislatures are more in tune with the needs of their state than the average voter. Let’s put it back like it was.
So those are my ideas. I believe these changes will change who decides to run for office. If we change public service so that it isn’t so lucrative, maybe the greedy will find another home and the jobs will attract folks who are truly in it for love of country.
Let’s have an honest, positive exchange of ideas about this. Everyone complains about the dishonesty of politicians and the overreach of our Government. Let’s get people talking about this and maybe we can help our nation change for the better. Your ideas count. Speak up.
Cheers,
Saint Leo

What’s Wrong with Washington

This is a new world’s record for me – two blogs in two days.

But I promise this one will be short.  I saw a link about it somewhere (see below) and saved it in my Reading list in Safari.  Then I saw something about it on TV.  It’s an old story, but I think it underscores for us all that our Congress is fundamentally broken and has been for some time.

As the story goes, Senator Orrin Hatch (Republican, Utah), speaking at an event for technology companies, made the following statement:

“If you want to get involved in business, you should get involved in politics.”

His advice, in a nutshell, was for companies to hire some lobbyists and spend some money on political campaigns or expect Washington to make your business life miserable. 

What would you call this?  Words like extortion and blackmail come to my mind.

Now, you might be thinking something like, “Big Deal – it’s always been that way.  They all do it.”  That may be true (with the possible exception of Representative Ron Paul – I hear that lobbyists don’t even try to see him), but as I thought about it, I really started to get worried.

This means they are all for sale.  Every member of our Congress is for sale (except maybe for a few of the new guys who haven’t been there long enough to really get in the swing of things).  No matter what they say; not matter how loud they trumpet their righteous indignation; nearly every one of them is in someone’s back pocket.

Many of us have the attitude that nothing really bad will happen because they will not let things go too far down the path of destruction.  They’ll come to their senses and do the right thing.  It’s becoming clear to me that, when the chips are down, our legislators will all vote their own pocketbook – no matter what the issue, not matter the consequences.

So what’s the solution?  I’ve heard a few things that make some sense.  Things like making it illegal to lobby (probably not feasible) and putting politicians’ money in a blind trust while they are in office.  I doubt either of these would work very well.

I’m thinking that the real solution is to limit their terms and eliminate any long-term special privileges that they get as a member of the Congress.  They get the same retirement, tax liabilities, and healthcare that the rest of us get.  The original reason for all the special privileges was that we didn’t want a former member of Congress to be caught living in poverty.  From my point of view, that’s probably as unlikely as anything I know – If a man or woman has enough guts and drive to get into Congress, well, I think they’ll do just fine after they leave office.

I think if we don’t figure out how to fix this, we are in deep trouble.  Why?  Because, at the end of the day, some people with deep pockets own our government.  People like Microsoft, big banks, George Soros, and lots more.  Really, it’s anyone with enough money and a political agenda.  So that means every vote in Congress is actually not a vote for the constituents, but a contest between benefactors. 

Think I’m wrong? Ask yourself what has really changed over the last 50 years.  No matter what each new President says, we still fight undeclared wars.  Taxes fluctuate, but they trend up.  Inflation continues because of our money policies.  Overall, no matter what political party is in charge, things still remain the same with a few fluctuations.

The approval rating of Congress is about 10%.  That’s awful.  If they are so bad, why don’t we vote them out?  Probably because most folks think all the other guys are crummy, but their own Congressman is one of the few good ones.  So we still see the same faces, year after year.

I don’t know about you, but this scares me to death.

 

Saint Leo

 

PS:  If you have any comments, please leave them on the blog so that Wisiwuv and I will see them. As the dolphins are famous for saying, “Good luck and thanks for all the fish!”

 

http://washingtonexaminer.com/carney-how-hatch-forced-microsoft-to-play-k-streets-game/article/2500453

 

“If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made it happen.”

For a guy who’s supposed to be smart, President Obama sure misses the mark in my book.  His comments about business and who is responsible for their success left me scratching my head and thinking he is working hard to turn the middle class against the people who make the economy grow.

On Friday in Roanoke Virginia, he made the following statement (The link below provides the entire text of the speech):

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

He’s trying to make the case for higher taxes for the wealthy, but I believe we are seeing a glimpse of how he truly feels here.  “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made it happen.”  The unspoken next line is, “You don’t deserve what you have and you shouldn’t have it”.  You can make up the next line for yourself.

I beg to differ with the President on a lot of levels, but here are a few of them:

First of all, the person who owns the business is the person who was willing to take a risk.  He or she put up their own money for the opportunity to fail or succeed.  In the beginning, they did all the work for their business, maybe in some cases not getting a paycheck so that their employees would get one.  As they grew bigger, they continually took more risks with their own money (and maybe someone else’s money who also took a risk to invest with them).

Secondly, I’m not sure who the President is indicating did it for them.  Their employees?  Sure, they did a lot of work for the company, but they took no risk and they were paid a wage for it.  The employees got their reward already.  Their reward was commensurate with the risk they took. 

It’s true they didn’t build the roads and bridges.  Those were generally built by the Government  – the American taxpayer.  I daresay that most business owners have paid for plenty of roads and bridges through their taxes.  According to “About.com” (link below), the top one percent of taxpayers paid more than a third of all individual income taxes in 2002. Maybe they aren’t in the top one percent.  But the top fifty percent paid nearly ALL of the individual income taxes paid.  They are surely in that group.  I suggest that insinuating that they don’t pay enough is ridiculous.  To me, fair share means everyone pays an equal percentage of their earnings. To suggest that they didn’t contribute to building the roads is disingenuous.

The President also stated that the internet was created by the government “so that all the companies could make money off the Internet”.  Rubbish.  The DARPA network (the father of the internet) was created by the government to create easy, secure communication between research facilities in the name of the National Defense.  I give the government lots of  credit for recognizing the benefit to free enterprise by making it accessible, but it wasn’t the reason they created it. 

I’ll give the President some credit for the “great teacher” clause, but only a little.  I was a teacher earlier in my life, and I know that a teacher can be the catalyst to flip a switch of understanding for a student, but all a teacher can really do is provide an idea or help a person learn to open up their mind to ideas.  But if there was nothing special about the student, then what happened to the other 150 students that teacher had?  If the teacher gets the credit, then why were the others not successful as well?

This argument wears thinner and thinner with me as time goes on.  Our President is trying everything he can think of to stimulate the economy or blame it’s failure on someone, but none of it works because he doesn’t believe that business is the engine that runs the economy. And that engine is standing still because of the uncertainty. 

Let me ask you a question.  In your personal finances, what would you do?  If you have no idea what you are going to owe in taxes and you don’t know what your health insurance is going to cost, are you going to think twice about a major purchase?  Of course you are.  If you don’t, you run the risk of going bankrupt.  If you’re smart, you start putting some money aside, just in case.  Businesses have the same problem, only worse – they make their plans over several years because they tend to lose money during the early period of expansion – the expenses are higher than the income initially.  So a tax break for the next year is great for the short term, but it’s really no help because they still have long-term uncertainty.  No wonder they aren’t expanding and creating new jobs.  They are socking away their profits to make sure they survive if the worst happens.

There are those who think President Obama is purposely trying to create a financial crisis in America.  I don’t know, but it sure seems to me like he’s barking up the wrong tree on a regular basis.

 

The President’s speech

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/13/remarks-president-campaign-event-roanoke-virginia

 

About.com reference:

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/incometaxandtheirs/a/whopaysmost.htm